Scrocca family ‘shocked’ after recent arson arrest

Victim’s father says family almost gave up hope

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The long awaited phone call had finally come, and Tony Scrocca was caught off-guard. It was Prince George’s County Det. Ben Brown, phoning the Scroccas to inform them an arrest would be made after a year of searching for the arsonist that killed their son, Michael Scrocca.

‘‘I was shocked and a little disappointed that someone knew about it and waited a whole year,” said Tony Scrocca, whose 22-year-old son, a University of Maryland student, was killed in a fire in the 7500 block of Princeton Avenue on April 30, 2005. University of Maryland student Daniel Murray was arrested last Thursday in connection to the arson – only four days after the Scrocca family gathered to offer each other support on the anniversary of Michael Scrocca’s death.

‘‘It was a tough day for the family, but we have a very strong support system,” said Tony Scrocca, who lives in New Jersey.

Murray, 20, was arrested by Prince George’s County police May 4 at his residence on the 4600 block of Pontiac Street. Murray was denied bail in Prince George’s County District Court May 5 and county police said he would remain in jail on charges of first-degree murder and first-degree arson until his June 1 preliminary hearing. The tipster, who asks police for anonymity in the case, learned about Murray’s involvement last month, according to media reports.

The fire was ruled arson when a gas can was found on the porch of the Princeton Avenue house where Scorocca and other university students lived. The house was the scene of a party the night of the arson. Murray was involved in an altercation at the Princeton Avenue house the night of the fire, Lt. Robert Nealon, commander of homicide investigations, said at a news conference last week. Murray set a broom on fire and tossed it on a couch on the front porch, according to various media reports that could not be confirmed by county police.

Tony Scrocca, who hired a private investigator last June, said his family was grateful for the police investigators’ work since last April.

‘‘They were relentless and they kept us up to date with everything that went on,” he said. ‘‘[The private eye and county investigators] shared as much information as they legally could. ... They were all very thorough.”

Maj. Daniel Dusseau, commander of the county’s criminal investigations unit, said investigators were relieved when a person finally came forward with information about Murray’s involvement.

‘’This is a case of the community coming forward and assisting us once again,” he said. ‘’The death of university student Michael Scrocca was a shock to the University of Maryland community. For our part, it’s always rewarding when we’re able to bring the most heinous crimes of homicide to closure.”

Tony Scrocca, who passed out pamphlets asking for any information into his son’s death at university football and basketball games last year, said he and his family almost gave up on their quest for closure.

‘‘To be honest, we were almost at the point where we didn’t know what to make of it,” said Tony Scrocca, who also credited the local media for keeping the case in the public eye. ‘‘And this is a little relief, but it does open a wound.”

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